How to Help a Child with ADD Get Organized
Children with ADD (attention deficit disorder) find it very difficult to stay focused. They tend to get in trouble at school for not paying attention. They forget to do their chores and homework or they forget to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. These kids are easily distracted and they’re very forgetful. It often seems like they’re just ignoring you or that they intentionally don’t do what you ask, which can be very frustrating.
Children diagnosed with ADD are often well behaved but they sometimes seem to be off in their own little world or unable to focus or settle down. In addition to these symptoms, clutter seems to follow children with ADD around like a magnet.
Why ADD Affects Organization
Kids with ADD don’t set out on a mission each day to be messy. He doesn’t pile toys, clothes and anything else in his room all over the floor just to upset or because he like to see you clean. He’s not trying to be defiant or break the rules. In fact, he probably doesn’t even realize he is making a mess. Kids with ADD are so caught up in whatever they’re doing at the time they’re completely oblivious of the mess around them until you point it out.
When you do point it out to him, it can be overwhelming. He may not know what to do or where to start so he just doesn’t try. Sometimes kids will do a little and then stop because there is so much to do, she feels like it will take forever. Fortunately, there are ways for you to help teach your child how to pick up after him/herself and stay organized.
Tips for Helping Kids with ADD/ADHD Stay Organized
I am a mom whose son has a really bad case of ADD. You have certainly heard this story from a ton of moms…where I pack his sports bag with his uniform, ball, water bottle and cleats and set it right by the door. All he has to do is get it to the car. We get to the game and one of those key things is missing. It turns out that at the last minute he opened his bag for some reason and inadvertently left something behind. This is so incredibly frustrating for us as parents and admittedly we do show our emotion of being annoyed and mad and just tired of this happening all the time (every time). I look back at the subtle faces I made or tones I used or lectures I gave to my son and feel regret enough to cry every time. Now that I am removed from living the life of a mom with an ADD child, I wish I would have been different. More understanding and better at slowing down to take the time to help him repeat things until he mastered them instead of doing it myself and leaving him feeling bad.
When you have a child with ADD you quickly learn that clutter rules your life. In fact, it’s so common that you probably go along behind your child and pick up after him all day long. After all, they never seem to remember to put things away so it’s faster and easier to just do it yourself. I fell into this trap with my son as I mentioned and while that might be true that it is faster and easier to do everything yourself, you’re not helping your child by doing this.
(I ultimately made mine less self-sufficient and less self-aware. It also hurt his self esteem.) You won’t always be there to live their lives for them so he needs to learn how to clean up after himself. It will take a lot of time and dedication to the process but it is essential to their success. (You don’t want to be like me with a son who is 22, still losing his keys and wallet daily and struggling to understand time management and wishing he could figure out how to stay organized. You don’t want to live with regret and sadness for being too busy to give them what they need so they can eventually do things for themselves.)
Here are a few tips to help him/her learn how to stay organized:
Start with a basic set of rules that are simple and easy to understand. Make them as simple and specific as possible without multiple steps. Make a chart explaining the rules for cleaning. Examples would be, make your bed, throw away your trash, put dirty clothes in hamper, put clean clothes in closet, put shoes in closet, put papers in a pile on desk, put legos in tub, etc.
(We had a lot of charts like this, but I had to sit in his room with him and keep him from getting distracted for him to make any sort of progress. It tried my patience and took so much time from other things. It made me frustrated and mad. I needed to have a better attitude and realize that some things in my home would have to wait while he got the learning he needed.)
Make it easy for him to clean. If her coat and backpack always ends up on the floor in a certain corner of the room, put a hook in that spot so that it at least looks more tidy. You may not want a hook in your dining room, but it is better to compromise and have some successes than continue to have them disappoint.
(I was upset every day of the year for 18 years while my son took off his shoes and left them right in the middle of the foyer in front of the door. Even with a boot tray there off to the side, he would not move them over to the tray. Instead of getting upset at him or doing it for him, I should have brought him to his shoes and made him set them in the tray every day as a normal part of our lives and saved us all the bad vibes.) Remind him/her each day to hang them instead of throwing them in the floor and pretty soon, it’ll be a habit.
Teach him how to put away their things. The concept of putting things back where they go may seem like simple common sense and cleaning may come easy to you and I, but to a child with ADD, it may literally be an impossible task. (I spent so much of my son’s life lecturing him about the time he was wasting and the frustration he was causing himself by never knowing where he last put his things that were now lost. I tried so hard and in so many different ways to explain how putting things back in their place all the time means you always know where they are, you always have them when you need them and you save yourself the turmoil… This message never set in and only made him feel more incompetent and sad.)
Help your child clean by telling him what you need her to do. Explain that the toys go in the toy box and the clean clothes go in the drawer and use one command at a time. Accept within yourself that you will have to be patient and empathetic. Use simple commands, redirect when he/she gets distracted and repeat this over and over until one day it clicks and they can manage some of these tasks without you there to direct.
These tips can help you teach your child how to clean and stay organized in a way he can learn and process but it will take time. Be patient and instead of focusing on what hasn’t been done, tell him you’re proud of what he has done so far. Don’t get upset when you see a messy room but gently remind him that he needs to clean. If it’s really messy, help out so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed and consider a reward system for when he does follow all of the rules.
Kids with ADD often want to pay attention and clean up after themselves but they need extra help learning how. The next time you’re feeling frustrated because you told him five times (or 500 times) to put him toys away, try to remember that she is feeling just as frustrated as you are that he forgot again.
Do you have a child with ADD or ADHD? What are some words of wisdom you an share with other parents?